God and Mammon. 16:1-13
Our passage for study consists of a teaching parable followed up by three supportive sayings. The message is simple, "disciples who do not show faithfulness in this life cannot expect to enter the life of the age to come", Earle Ellis.
v1-7. Jesus opens with an illustrative parable. The shrewd manager realized he was about to get sacked. Naturally he felt he was entitled to a lump sum payment in lieu of severance pay and so he fixed himself up with a nice little retirement package at his employer's expense.
v8a. The parable continues into the first half of this verse. The "master" is the employer. In telling the story, Jesus makes the point that the employer was impressed by the excellent business acumen of the manager in so effectively setting up a superannuation plan at such short notice and so the employer "commended" his shrewdness, without necessarily rewarding his embezzlement.
v8b. Jesus goes on to make a rather sad observation. Secular people are more shrewd in handling the resources of this age ("their own kind") than are godly people ("people of the light"). "The people of this world look out for themselves better than the people who belong to the light", CEV.
v9. We are now presented with three sayings on stewardship; the first one serves as the punch-line for the parable. A disciple must use their resources (their wealth, their "this world's things") in such a way as to secure their future. The future for a believer, of course, has nothing to do with retirement and the need for superannuation; our future has to do with eternity. So, before our resources run out, particularly our time, we would do well to use what we have with an eye to eternity.
v10-12. The second saying reminds us that a person who has shown that they can be trusted with small things (this world's things) can obviously be trusted with greater responsibilities (eternal things). If we have selfishly dissipated this world's resources, how can we be trusted with the greater resources of eternity? If we have selfishly used the resources of this world, which belong to God, how can we be trusted with heavenly resources, resources which would be ours for eternity?
v13. The third saying reminds us that we can't serve two masters. We either live for the things of this world, or we live for Christ - we can't do both at the same time.
Money, money, money
We are all conformed to the world to some degree. We strive to earn more, to pay less for goods and services, and to accumulate more for the future. Jesus observes that, for a religious person, this behavior is quite stupid. If we are going to share in the riches of eternity, then grasping the ephemeral elements of this age is indeed foolish. Using our opportunities here, in preparation for eternity, is a more sensible way to behave.
A disciple is bound to deal with wealth in a way that runs counter to the mega-buck mentality of the world. We are bound to strive to be that "trustworthy" person we are already in Christ - be what we are as best we can.
The following two principles from our passage for study are worthy of note:
1. Devalue. Wealth should not become a prop to our existence; it should not be allowed to assume a god-like status in our lives.
2. Maximize. We should learn to maximize our resources for the kingdom within our given humanness, ie. Conserve for the kingdom, rather than dissipate for ourselves - little by little.
The maximizing of time, talent and tinkle for the kingdom, is the most neglected of the above principles, yet it is prominent in the New Testament, cf. Math.25:14-30. Learning to handle our resources is an excellent preparation for our reign with Christ in eternity. Worldly people are shrewd in the way they use their resources for their future life; believers should be just as shrewd. Our future lies in eternity and how we handle our resources here, prepares us for our service there.
Yet, although this passage gives us some practical advice on the stewardship of resources, resources on loan to us from God, we must not ignore the perfection demanded of those who would follow Christ. It is often suggested that if we give 10% of our earnings we have fulfilled all righteousness. Yet, all we have succeeded in doing is fostering self-righteousness. The truth is that the required standard is a 100% stewardship of this world's things. Is there any one of us who would claim they have given all to Jesus? None of us have faithfully used the resources on loan to us from God, and so unlike the dishonest steward who secured his future, our eternal future looks grim indeed.
Thankfully, as an act of divine grace, we can claim for ourselves the perfect stewardship of Christ. He is the only trustworthy servant who has served but one master - God and not money. When we hold onto Jesus we become, in him, that trustworthy servant, and receive, as a gift, the "true riches" of eternity. Such is the bounty of a generous and loving God.
1. The steward had foresight in providing for his earthly future. What lesson does Jesus draw from this story for Christians, ("people of light")?
2. If we can serve only one master and "Mammon" is the master we seem to end up serving, how is it possible for us to be saved?
3. Verses 10-12 seem to imply that the way we use of our God-given resources here on earth determines the extent of resources entrusted to us in eternity. Is this true? Does this mean the more faithful get a bigger Tardis? Discuss, without getting too serious!
Print-friendly: Sermon Notes. and Technical Notes
Index of studies: Resource library
Pumpkin Cottage Ministry Resources
Lectionary Bible Studies and Sermons